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"A good science fiction story should be able to predict not the automobile but the traffic jam."
- Frederik Pohl

Flexible Metal Arms (Tentacles)  
  An interesting description of how mechanical tentacles might function.  

...after months of weary trials, he had been able to furnish the brain with arms or members, two small, hollow limbs of flexible metal that projected from each end of the brain-case, being actuated by a chain of electro-magnets inside, so that the brain, by sending the correct electrical current through these magnets, could twist the arms about at its pleasure.
Technovelgy from The Metal Giants, by Edmond Hamilton.
Published by Weird Tales in 1926
Additional resources -

He continues:

He wrote that as he watched the flexible, snakelike metal arms flashing about with beaker and test-tube and burner, unerringly, swiftly, he realized that he had constructed an intelligence that was more than human.

Compare to the steel tentacles from The War of the Worlds (1898) by HG Wells.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Metal Giants
  More Ideas and Technology by Edmond Hamilton
  Tech news articles related to The Metal Giants
  Tech news articles related to works by Edmond Hamilton

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